The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


While Native nations in the United States have tribal sovereignty—that is, the inherent freedom and authority to govern themselves without outside control—non-Native actors have often challenged this institution within legal and political spaces. The United States court system, starting with the Marshall Court, has often attempted to define aspects of Indigenous sovereignty and federal-tribal relationships. The 2014 US Supreme Court case Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community is no exception, raising questions of sovereign immunity in the context of Indian gaming, tribal-state relationships, and land trusts. This paper first provides a general context for the case, identifying relevant historical events and legal precedents. Next, the paper illustrates the case facts and rulings and traces its journey to the highest court in the United States. Finally, it analyzes the contemporary significance of the rulings for the federal Indian law landscape and future cases, specifically noting the majority opinion’s limiting conditions.